Weave News kicks off its first conference celebrating a decade of grassroots media making on September 22 (learn more here). The event will converge scholars, students, artists, and community members for a weekend of citizen journalism and activism. We're excited to welcome Quester Hannah, a filmmaker based in New York City and China, who will lead a workshop and discussion on the making of his latest documentary. Nicole Eigbrett, social media director for Weave News, chatted with Hannah about his experiences and what to expect from his presentations at the conference. Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Nicole Eigbrett: Tell me about your background. What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Quester Hannah: I taught elementary school for several years after graduating from the University of Maine with a Political Science degree. I later earned a MFA in acting from Pennsylvania State University and started acting in off-Broadway and regional productions, as well as independent films. Acting inspired me to become a filmmaker because it introduced me to the art of visual storytelling and enhanced my creativity. After acting in a few films I knew I wanted to be behind the camera and immerse myself in filmmaking and master this craft.
NE: What is your focus and primary genres in filmmaking?
QH: My primary focus is to make films that tell stories of the African Diaspora throughout the world, focusing on Asia and Israel. My main genre is social drama in narrative form.
NE: What do you believe is the role of films and film makers in our present day?
QH: I believe their role is to entertain, educate, and impact our audiences with works that inspire, motivate, and enlighten. Though it's quite difficult to achieve all these concepts, it's the pursuit of them which allows us to become masters of our craft.
NE: What brings you to the Weave News 10th Anniversary Conference?
QH: I met TzinTzun Aguilar-Izzo through our mutual friend, Kedman Ali, who told him I as making a film about asylum speakers in Israel. TzinTzun told me about the mission statement and purpose of Weave News, which I have a great deal of respect for. He invited me to participate in the conference even though the film was still in it's early editing stages.
NE: Tell me about your workshop, "Using the camera to create change." What will participants take away from your session?
QH: My workshops will lay the groundwork of the different styles of making documentaries. The camera is basically a metaphor for filmmaking. I hope participants will take away a basic knowledge of how documentary filmmaking can have an impact on society and how to begin the process of achieving this.
NE: You're our featured presenter for opening night of the conference. Give us a preview of your experience creating your forthcoming documentary, Never Give Up, Never Keep Silent.
QH: Since we're still editing the documentary, I am only able to screen certain sequences of the film. According to festival guidelines I am not permitted to screen the film in it's entirety. However, I will show how we made the film and screen selected sequences to capture the broader themes and topics.
There have been several amazing experiences over the last three years making this film. Some pleasant, some unpleasant. All of them were valuable and appreciated. I would say my first visit to Holot was an experience I will remember for quite a long time. To see other humans detained in a prison facility in the middle of the desert with little or no hope of realizing their dreams was heart wrenching. They are being detained just because they are seeking asylum. It's a very sad situation.
Meet Quester Hannah in person during his presentation on the making of the forthcoming documentary, Never Give Up, Never Keep Silent on Friday, September 22. The presentation begins at 8:00 pm in the Winston Room, Sullivan Student Center on the campus of St. Lawrence University. This event is free and open to the public, thanks in part to the Arts Collaborative at St. Lawrence University. Visit here for more details.
To learn more about Hannah and other presenters and panelists at the Weave News 10th Anniversary Conference, visit here. #WeaveNews10